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World Champ Eastgate headlines EPT London final
In front of a raucous crowd at the Rio in Las Vegas and the largest TV audience in the game's history, 22-year old Peter Eastgate stepped quite calmly into poker's brightest spotlight and walked away a winner.
In fact, the reigning world champion told PokerListings he was actually more nervous playing for a spot in the final eight at PokerStars EPT London Tuesday than this past November when he sat down with the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event title at stake.
"It sounds strange, but I actually kind of felt more nervous at this table than at the Main Event," said Eastgate, who eventually booked his seat in the London final and will come into Wednesday's playdown to a champion sitting second in chips.
"I've lost quite a bit since I won the World Series and I think that's the reason why. I think the losses have had an effect on my demeanor and my confidence."
Poker's world title appears to bring more than fame and fortune. It often invites criticism and Eastgate has had more than his share of people questioning his game over the past year.
But ultimately he plays to win, not to silence his critics.
"I don't feel like I need to prove anything," he said. "But should I win this, that would certainly solidify my victory at the World Series and quiet all the doubters.
"It's not something I think about, though. I don't take that much prestige in what others think of my poker talents. I love the game, I'm very passionate about the game, and I'm not necessarily giving that much thought to other people's respect."
Born and raised in Odense, Denmark, Eastgate moved to London after winning the Main Event and said he has particularly enjoyed playing at home this week.
"That's one of the things I don't like about playing poker tournaments all around the world," the Team PokerStars Pro said. "Staying in hotel rooms, you can't get decent food or sleep all the time.
"At home you can get a decent, healthy meal and sleep in your own bed."
When he awakes tomorrow after a night in his own bed and heads into the final with a legitimate shot at EPT London's £850,000 first-place prize, Eastgate plans on feeling awake, refreshed and as confident as he can be.
"I am feeling confident, but the players I'll be up against tomorrow, they are all very fierce and competent players," he said. "It's going to be very tough. The average player nowadays is so much better than even a year ago."
23-year-old Las Vegas pro Aaron Gustavson will come into the final with a massive chip lead holding twice as many chips as Eastgate and the almost-equally stacked Martin Gudvangen from Bergen, Norway.
The middle of the pack includes 19-year-old German Nikolai Senninger, Nottingham's Dominic Cullen and PokerStars Team Asia pro Raymond Wu.
Portugal's Rui Milhomens and Morocco's Karim Bennani are the shortest stacks.
For all the action from Wednesday's final at PokerStars EPT London, including chip counts, photos and live updates, click through to PokerListings' Live Tournaments page beginning at 12 p.m. BST.